There were signs of progression and enhancement by Jake Virtanen in 2017-18, but the Vancouver Canucks need the 2014 first round pick to elevate his game even more this upcoming season.
The Vancouver Canucks will be banking on more production from their young forwards in the upcoming 2018-19 season — and we’re not just talking about Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser and potentially Elias Pettersson.
After a long wait, fans will finally see the young kids take over from here on out. That means Jake Virtanen — the sixth-overall pick from 2014 — will finally get his chance to morph into a top-six forward. At least, that’s what the Canucks need him to become.
The Canucks passed on the likes of William Nylander and Nikolaj Ehlers, both of whom are established 60-point guys who’ve helped their respective teams (the Toronto Maple Leafs and Winnipeg Jets), become playoff squads.
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Now, 2018-19 is possibly a make or break year for Virtanen. The Canucks have since developed their prospect pool even more since drafting Virtanen, while acquiring young forwards like Nikolay Goldobin and Jonathan Dahlen in trades.
But some of these forwards could be several years away from making an impact. And with general manager Jim Benning opting not to sign expensive snipers in free agency, it goes to show he wants players like Boeser, Horvat and Virtanen to carry the offence next season. Nothing wrong with that.
We’ve seen what Horvat and Boeser can do, but the jury is still out on Virtanen.
He displayed his dazzling speed and fancy shot, but ‘Big Jake’ had just 10 goals and 10 assists in 75 games last season.
Virtanen certainly benefited from the head coaching trade, but can Travis Green help Virtanen release all of his skill set? The Canucks certainly better hope so, otherwise a tough decision could be looming for Benning.
Could he decide to move on from Virtanen if the 6-foot-1 power forward can’t take his game to another level? It will have been five years since Virtanen next season, and we’re still waiting for him to blossom into that 20-goal guy.
The Canucks lack quality veteran scorers, and the likes of Boeser and Horvat won’t be able to do it alone. The clock is ticking on Virtanen to show he belongs with the Canucks long-term, but another lackluster showing next season won’t cut it.
Thus, the Canucks simply need him to step up and reach his full potential next season. If Virtanen doesn’t do that, the team will be devoid of another hopeful 20-goal scorer and high energy player. And that could mean trading him in hopes of giving Virtanen the fresh start he may need after all.